D-I-E-T. It’s a deceptive word. But you probably already know that if you’re like the estimated 45 million North Americans on a diet right now and it’s the third, fourth or fifth time you’ve tried to lose weight and keep it off.
Wanna know why that happens, over and over and over? A new study of 14,000 people reveals that when you go on a diet, it piles on added stress, triggering overeating and weight gain.
Researchers from the U.K.’s University of Liverpool reviewed the weight and eating habits of thousands of Americans and Brits. They discovered that people who thought of themselves as overweight were more likely to feel tense and anxious — and to eat to soothe those feelings. As a result, they were more likely to gain weight than those who weren’t focused on the number on their bathroom scale.
Well, we’ve got a more effective way to achieve a healthy weight, and there’s no better time for you to try it. The season’s abundance of mouthwatering, sun-ripened fruits and vegetables make creating deliciously healthy meals fun and easy.
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Mind shift No. 1: Focus on healthy food, not on the bathroom scale. Weigh yourself only once a week, or less. Instead, say “good-bye” to the Five Food Felons: Ditch added sweeteners and syrups, trans fats (often called “partially hydrogenated” fat or oil on ingredients lists), most saturated fats and white-flour foods like white bread, white crackers and white pasta. They boost risk for heart disease, diabetes and inflammation-boosting abdominal fat. Go for 100 percent whole grains.
At the same time, aim for 2-3 servings of fresh or frozen, no-sugar-added fruit and 5-9 of veggies every day. Make sure veggies fill half your plate. And sneak extras into soups, sauces, casseroles. Grate carrots, onions and red peppers into chicken burgers, slide spinach leaves and thick tomato slices into your sandwiches, start every dinner with a big garden salad. You’ll flood your body with vitamins, minerals and super-healthy phytonutrients that help prevent cancer, too. The bonus: Chunky, fiber-packed produce fills you up.
Mindshift No. 2: Put breakfast and lunch on automatic pilot. The less you have to think about, the easier it’ll be to eat more healthfully. That’s why we’ve “automated” our breakfast and lunch routine and think you should, too. Pick two to three healthy breakfasts and lunches you love, stock your kitchen with the ingredients and you’re good to go. You’ll never feel tempted by unhealthy foods at these mealtimes, or reach for less-than-stellar snacks to stop hunger pangs while you figure out what the heck you’re going to eat.
Research suggests that it takes two to three weeks to install a new habit into your routine; new habits get easier as you practice them. By automating two meals a day, you’re establishing healthy new habits, and new habits are also something the brain really likes. Now you’re giving your willpower a break. Studies suggest that most of us have a limited willpower supply, and it dwindles as the day goes on. Save yours for more important things than deciding what you’ll have for breakfast or lunch!
Auto-Breakfast Suggestions: Oatmeal; scrambled egg whites with lots of veggies (cook extra veggies at dinner for a fast morning scramble), plus whole-grain toast; a smoothie with nonfat no-sugar-added yogurt and fresh or frozen fruit; or a slice of whole-grain toast with a tablespoon or two of nut butter.
Awesome Lunch Options: A big veggie salad with skinless, broiled chicken and a little olive oil and vinegar; vegetable soup plus a salad or half a sandwich; or a veggie burger on a whole-grain roll with lots of mustard, lettuce and tomato.
For dinner, choose a lean protein, a whole grain and two veggies that you love. Finish the meal with fresh fruit and tea, followed by an evening stroll. You’re living the good life! These tips all come from our bestseller, “YOU: On A Diet Revised, The Owner’s Manual to Losing Waist.”
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.